Market to Market - February 24, 2023

Market to Market | Episode
Feb 24, 2023 | 26 min

On this edition of Market to Market, a later winter storm reminds everyone that winter isn't over. Corn takes it on the chin as the numbers come in from the Ag Outlook Forum. High school students take a class that returns dividends to the community. And market analysis with Ted Seifried.


Coming up on Market to Market - A late winter storm serves as a reminder - cold and snow are still in season. Corn falls quickly following new prospects from the Ag Outlook Forum. High school students take a class that returns dividends to the community. And market analysis with Ted Seifried, next.

What's next doesn't happen by chance. It happens when researchers and farmers work together to solve tomorrow's agronomic challenges. We're committed to creating what's next because at Pioneer, our name is our mission.

Sukup manufacturing. Celebrating 60 years of innovation as a family owned and operated manufacturer of grain storage, drying and handling equipment out of Sheffield, Iowa. Learn more at

Tomorrow. For over 100 years, we've worked to help our customers be ready for tomorrow. Trust in tomorrow. Information is available from a Grinnell Mutual agent today.

This is the Friday, February 24 edition of Market to Market, the Weekly Journal of Rural America.

Hello. I’m Paul Yeager.

The little bit more you earned last month went right past your pocket and into the till of various businesses.

While personal income increased by six-tenths of one percent, so did the personal consumption expenditures index.  The government’s new preferred inflation gauge kept the same pace even at the core level.

Existing home sales fell seven tenths of one percent last month. Tight supplies and higher interest rates continued to hold the 12-month trend on a downward slope. The annual sales rate has plunged by 37 percent but officials with the National Association of Realtors believe the trend may be nearing the end.

It’s that time of year when hints of spring are confounded by winter’s resolve to hold on for a few more weeks. The current weather system, which has spent the last few days pounding most of the west and central parts of the country, has killed one person and is headed east with no clear signs of stopping.

Peter Tubbs has more.

A winter storm barrelled its way across the country this week, stranding motorists and canceling flights. Portland, Oregon saw its second snowiest day on record. The snowfall sent cars spinning and resulted in hours- long traffic jams. Higher elevations saw a foot of snow fall from the system.

States in the Upper Midwest largely shut down as the storm moved through. Over 400 miles of Interstate highway were closed in North and South Dakota due to snowfall and high winds.

Businesses and government offices in Minneapolis - St. Paul closed in anticipation of the storm, which dumped up to 20 inches across the Metro. A large swath of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan received 9 inches of snow, with isolated areas approaching two feet of accumulation. Air temperatures across the upper Plains dropped to -20 degrees below zero, and were accompanied by wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour.

The Sioux Falls airport closed to all flights as a result of the storm, and airports in Denver and Minneapolis reported delays and cancellations.

The storm system left hundreds of thousands of households across multiple states without power, with over 800,000 homes in Michigan in the dark.

For Market to Market, I’m Peter Tubbs.

Rural main streets have seen more empty storefronts than full ones over the past few decades. The local locker has remained a staple but they are always looking for people to work the cutting table to get product out the door.

One high school has taken matters in hand and started a class to increase the number of those capable of taking down the help wanted sign at the local butcher shop.

Peter Tubbs has more in our Cover Story.

School buses drop off students on a rainy morning in Mantachie, Mississippi. The district of 1,000 students in the northeast corner of the state has the usual classroom offerings for students, but excels in agricultural trades instruction.

Fourteen students in the Meats 2 class are working on breaking down deer carcasses that area hunters have delivered for processing. As some work on whole carcasses, separating the large cuts, others do trim work, or grind the venison through a grinder.

Matt Spradling, Mantachie Instructor: “Students that is working together right now. Those students have three or four deer out at one time. And but that being said, you have to have communication to keep all of that straight so that whatever deer came out of the cooler stays with that same person's name as it goes through to be processed and finished that way.”

Whether a student is doing the knife work or holding the carcass for others, they are applying what they have learned in the classroom to the cutting table.

Matt Spradling, Mantachie Instructor: “I guess the easiest thing to pick up is just making sure that everything is clean. And part of that is because we do go over that so much. I guess that would be the easiest. The hardest thing that I would say for them to pick up is our students sits on our break down table whenever that carcass comes out there is four different muscles within a hind quarter of that animal.  A lot of the times it takes several days for students to understand how to actually cut those out without cutting part of another piece off with one. You know, they might cut out one and a half pieces and only half of the other.”

Students in the Meats class find the nuance of separating the different cuts challenging, but rewarding.

Wesley Umfress  “Really getting down the cuts. Really cutting, right. And really, because you got to separate the muscles and the meat. So really just doing that and making sure you get everything right and get everything clean and just cutting.”

Conversations about school with students from other districts illuminate how unusual the meat program is at Mantachie.

Wesley Umfress. Mantachie student:  “. The conversation with them is a lot of "That's crazy. All we do is sit in a classroom", It's definitely something different that nobody else really gets to experience. So I enjoy it very well.”

The agricultural curriculum at Mantachie also includes courses on forestry and general agriculture. In an average year, 80 percent of Mantachie 8th graders take an agriculture class as an elective.

The agriculture program at Mantachie has a long legacy in the community. Many of the students in this class have parents who took the class themselves. Instructor Matt Spradling grew up in Mantachie and took the classes he now teaches.

Matt Spradling, Mantachie Instructor: “Uh, my family's been in Mantachie for several generations. Mantachie is home to me. Oh, always has been and will be. And it's nice getting to come home to your school that you put something into as a student, and now then getting to keep putting into it as a teacher.”

The strength of the agricultural instruction carries over to the success of the FFA program. Mantachie FFA often competes in regional and national meat competitions. As the only meats lab in Mississippi public schools, it joins the few dozen meats programs that are part of the national FFA.

Both the startup costs of building a certified meat processing room and the scarcity of meat cutting instructors keeps limits the number of meat programs across the country.

Matt Spradling, Mantachie Instructor: “Hopefully, you know, some of these students will go into the career of a butcher or something one day. I even have a couple of students right now that is helping out at a local, you know, meat shop in town and even get some that them as well as some of their family have their own deer processing facility at their house that they're using what they're learning here to go and make money somewhere else.”

Students rotate positions from day to day, but each has the part of the butchering process they prefer.

Keileigh Spencer, Mantachie student: “The table I'm on right now, which is like the grinding table, the pre grinding table, which is where we take what's came from the break down table. So most times it can be like the front shoulders, the ribs and all that. And we cut it all off, take off the all the meat. And just that's going to sound really disgusting. So you cut off all the blood clots and all that and cut it off the bone and get ready to go into the grinder. So that's probably my favorite part.”

Students in this class will process up to 500 deer between November and March, along with some beef and pork carcasses. Once trained, one student is able to break down one deer carcass each hour. Tracking each cut through the process is paramount.

Matt Spradling, Mantachie Instructor: “If I bring in a deer, I get my exact deer back kind of deal. And that teaches communication, teamwork, work ethic and these students, the more they do it, the better they get at it. And, you know, sometimes when something happens, you know, they make something wrong off of one deer because they didn't read a tag correctly. Some students don't like cutting. They got a role. They can work on the grinder, they can do the tenderize or vacuum sealer write on the bag to let people know what cut they're getting in that bag. So there's a job for everybody. Even though you're not physically cutting the meat, there's still a job for you somewhere in that meat facility.” 

Even though the number of those who pursue meat sciences as a career is small, Spradling agrees learning a hands-on skill can leave students with the courage to try new things, and enter the job market with the confidence to learn new skills.

Matt Spradling, Mantachie Instructor: “So people just ask pretty much about what we do and then they're pretty amazed at how much stuff that we have that a lot of places don't.”

For Market to Market, I’m Peter Tubbs.

Next, the Market to Market report.

Yeager: In the face of the one year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, the bigger factor in price for the commodity markets came from the domestic side as acres and stocks numbers were issued at the 2023 Ag Outlook Forum. For the holiday-shortened week, the nearby wheat contract plummeted 55 cents, while the May corn contract fell 28 cents. The Outlook released at the Forum was neutral for soybeans, even with higher projected supplies, crush, exports and ending stocks. The May soybean contract shed 3 cents, while the May meal contract added $5.10 per ton. May cotton expanded by $3.40 per hundredweight, an increase of just over four percent. Over in the dairy parlor April Class three milk futures declined by 13 cents. The livestock market was higher as April cattle added 73 cents. April feeders improved by $3.13. And the April lean hog contract gained 75 cents.

In the currency markets, the US dollar index added 133 ticks. April crude oil declined 28 cents per barrel. COMEX gold lost $25.40 per ounce. And the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index dropped by more than 8 points to settle at 570-even. Joining us now is regular market analyst, Ted Seifried. Hello, Ted.

Seifried: Hi, Paul. How are you doing?

Yeager: Well, I'm doing fine. But I'm not trying to sit on any wheat right now. Tough week. We have gone -- we were up 80 cents over 2 months and now dramatically lower. So, I always get asked this, do I sell now to avoid paying later?

Seifried: Yeah, it was a tough week for wheat for a couple of reasons. One, you have China asking Russia to cease and desist. And so there are some thoughts out there that maybe this thing might come to a conclusion sooner than later, which means that maybe there's a bit more premium in the wheat market than what needs to be. And wheat has really been in a very dramatic downtrend for the past six months. You also had a sharply higher dollar there on Friday. That doesn't help things. And from a technical perspective, you had a lot of people, a lot of analysts, a lot of chartists saying hey look, we might have a really nice inverse head and shoulders formation on the wheat chart creating a long-term bottom that started in the beginning of December. Well, Friday we took that second shoulder out and not only that, we took the head out. We made a new contract low for Chicago wheat. So now you have a much different looking chart than what you did this time last week or even Wednesday for that matter. So, yes, there is cause for concern in wheat. There is cause for concern from a technical standpoint, there is cause for concern from a fundamental global standpoint, there is continued talk of recession, depression, things like that. And our exports just haven't really, never really came to fruition from when we were talking about oh wow, Russia and Ukraine aren't going to be able to export and we're going to see this big influx of U.S. exports and it just never happened.

Yeager: I guess I'm going to go back to my original question though. Do you sell to avoid this thing going lower? Because all of a sudden if you do that, do you create another problem on a technical side where you see a whole bunch of sales and the market goes even lower?

Seifried: Yeah, Paul, I don't know if your sales are going to make the market go lower. I think there's a lot of bigger fish in play right now. But, yeah, I've got to say, it really didn't have a warm and fuzzy feeling at the end of the week for wheat. I think there's got to be a bit of fear there. And that fear may really start to snowball because there was a whole lot of hope and that hope has been dashed and whenever that happens then producers come in and sell. That could snowball on top of itself. Yeah, I think the sooner the better.

Yeager: So what do I do?

Seifried: Look, I'm always a big fan of the synthetic put scenario. When you've got a market that has been in a downtrend coming from elevated prices, you can sell cash and then you can own calls fairly cheaply because, again, you've got a market that has been in a bear trend so the call options aren't all that expensive. That creates a floor. You made your cash sale, you don't have to worry about the downside anymore. But you can reown that not paying a whole lot by owning the call options. But either way I think it is time to take some fairly aggressive protection. At the end of last week, middle of this week you kind of said, all right, I'm going to wait and see what happens, maybe this is a bottom, maybe we're going to see a bigger rebound than what we've seen over the past six months. You've got an answer to that later in the week. You waited and you saw and now we see and now you have to take action on the other side. It's not the preferred action, granted, but it's an action nonetheless.

Yeager: Is the wheat market an indicator to the corn market of what could happen quickly?

Seifried: So, you've had a bit of a disconnect between wheat and corn. Corn has been in a slightly higher but mostly sideways trend whereas the wheat has been really in a longer-term downtrend for the last six months. But now that wheat prices are getting closer to corn prices, back to like a normal range, now you do feel like wheat is going to have a bigger influence on the corn market. So yes, you see what happened there on Friday, wheat making new lows, and if you're a corn bull you say oh no, that is a problem. If wheat continues another leg lower from here that will now start to weigh a lot more heavily on the corn market than it has in the past few months. And then you look at what corn did at the end of this week and that has to be a bit of a wakeup call.

Yeager: Well, and let's go then to the December because that new crop situation -- I was just going to look at the number -- but you stopped right in the middle of what I was thinking. Three percent, so is it cutting it short now? Why is the disconnect a little bit between these two months? Why not a bigger move lower on December corn?

Seifried: First of all, we have a bit of an export problem. We saw it again Friday morning with the delayed export sales, export sales were there, that's about the best thing you can say about them. They were at the low end of the trade estimates and that continues to happen week after week after week. And it's interesting because we all can say give it time, give it time. But we've been saying that for a while. And we've given it time and they haven't picked up. In the face of the last three months of talking about this major catastrophe happening in Argentina, well, if global end users were really concerned about that, if they were sitting there thinking well, I know I'm going to need a lot of corn this year and Argentina is falling apart, I've really got to come in and buy that U.S. corn. Well they haven't done that. There is no sense of urgency, Paul. So what does that mean? Does that mean that they just don't believe what is happening in Argentina is real? I don't think so. I think that the demand is just not out there. And why would that demand go away? Well, high prices are the cure for high prices. I don't love cliches but that is a really good one. So, that's just a really bad sign for global demand. That lack of urgency from the global end user to come in and buy U.S., to make those export sales, that's a problem. And so that is being reflected up front. You've got that major inverse in the market. So that is under pressure. But now we're, after Ag Outlook Forum, on Friday you saw that back month December coming down pretty decently as well.

Yeager: In soybeans you're almost having some of those same factors, but they're much more real and maybe the market is responding. You're at eight month highs and then there is this word of frost in Argentina. So all of a sudden it becomes a weather story and the market responded pretty much like that. However, this Brazilian large crop, when you were talking about Brazil in the corn discussion I thought you were talking about beans. But if Brazil has this large crop is the if gone? Is it a large crop in Brazil and finally the market is taking it into consideration?

Seifried: Well, first of all, back with corn we still have to see what happens with that second season corn crop in Brazil. What you saw Thursday and Friday in corn, that big precipitous drop, I don't know if this is the real deal or not, if the market is going to fall apart. I think this is foreshadowing what might come in the future because I at least feel like the market should hold onto some weather premium until we know more about that second season Brazil crop. But, for soybeans it's a different story. That Brazil crops is for all intents and purposes done and it's a very good one and it's coming to ports and you see basis at Brazilian ports well under what it would normally be this time of year, suggesting that they are behind on their export sales. So that is going to be a problem going forward. Now, beans have kind of held on because of the opposite of corn, the export sales have been good and they have stayed good for longer than what we normally would expect. So, there Friday morning you see over half a million metric tons sold and you say, wow. While it's not what we were seeing four or five weeks ago, it's still a pretty robust number, 20 million bushels or so. So that bean balance sheet is as tight as advertised unless a bunch of those sales get canceled. So beans are kind of trying to hold up, especially old crop beans where you see new crop being the one that wants to lead the way lower. But, you look at that basis in Brazil, you look at the Brazilian farmer being very undersold and you have to understand that there's going to be a lot of selling coming into the market in the very near future. So, yeah, I worry about beans. Beans tried to hold onto technical support at the end of the week this week. We'll see what happens next week.

Yeager: Matt, my follow up to Ted on the wheat market will come in Market Plus. Matt has a really good question about relations with China, but I need to get to livestock. Cattle on feed today. We have seen Brazil and China over BSE, is that impacting the U.S. market yet?

Seifried: You know, what we didn't see it in export sales because that's too soon. The best thing I can say to that is that when we found out about it we kind of came out of the gate hot and then sort of backtracked on that a little bit. But you've got to consider, we're already at some very elevated prices. So I don't think that's a bad showing for the market. I think over time we want to take the stance of let's see these exports happen and then we'll kind of get excited about it. But look at cattle on feed numbers, that report was expected to be bullish, it came out to be a little bit more bullish than expectations even. You saw weights drop six pounds week over week. We are now below the five year average for the first time in a long time. We're down 16 pounds on weights from where we were this time last year. So not only do we not have the animals out there but we're also watching weights decline at a very rapid pace. This is a very bullish supply side situation. On the other hand, you've got to talk about demand and there has been a little bit of question about that, especially late in the week, which kind of I think kept a lid on the cattle because you see that dollar getting stronger, because you see the stock market coming off, because you're hearing all this talk of recession and problems with China and so on and so forth. So, the supply side of cattle is really bullish and that has been reflected in pricing in the markets. The demand side of the question we sort of go back and forth on that whether we think demand is going to be gangbusters or whether demand is going to start to cool off because of this domestic global recession that has been really very advertised for the last few months.

Yeager: And we've talked about it impacting grains. You and I have discussed this several times. But the hog market then is facing some of those same scenarios. At some point China is going to come in and buy.

Seifried: Which they didn't, 12,000 metric tons there on Friday. Over 50,000 metric tons on export sales there Friday morning. Wow, that was impressive, yet hogs closed lower on the day. You don't have the same supply side scenario in hogs that you do in cattle. Weights are alright. The number of hogs out there, yeah okay it's not as robust as it has been at certain times, but on Friday when you get a really good export sales number and you say oh wow, we should be off to the races, but then you look over at the Dow down over 400 points and the dollar up over 600 points and you say oh okay, well, but demand going forward. Is that going to continue? I'm optimistic that BSE in Brazil is not only going to be bullish beef exports but I think that could actually be bullish pork exports. I'm optimistic on --

Yeager: I've got to go, I've got to cut you off. They're telling me we're done. Ted, thank you so much, appreciate it.

Seifried: Yeah, no problem.

Yeager: That'll do it. Thank you very much, Ted. We're going ot put a pause on this analysis, continue that discussion in our Market Plus. You can find that on our website of For those of you watching us over traditional television via the web or on the web, this is the start of our annual pledge drive. If you believe in this service that you have trusted for nearly five decades, consider investing in your local public TV station to keep programs like this one in production. We thank you for your support. Next week, we look at how Native Americans have been given a little more say in what goes into their grocery carts. Thank you so much for watching. Have a great week.


Market to Market is a production of Iowa PBS which is solely responsible for its content.

What's next doesn't happen by chance. It happens when researchers and farmers work together to solve tomorrow's agronomic challenges. We're committed to creating what's next because at Pioneer, our name is our mission.

Sukup manufacturing. Celebrating 60 years of innovation as a family owned and operated manufacturer of grain storage, drying and handling equipment out of Sheffield, Iowa. Learn more at

Tomorrow. For over 100 years, we've worked to help our customers be ready for tomorrow. Trust in tomorrow. Information is available from a Grinnell Mutual agent today.